Matthew Goodwin first came to the attention of the business community as a man to watch in 1954, just after completing his National Service with the RAF, when he took a part-time evening job delivering elective lectures to Glasgow Chartered Accountant apprentices. Despite knowing at the outset no more about the specialist subject than any other newly-qualified CA, such was his meticulous preparation, and charismatic lecturing style, that after a year or two attendances had built up from a mere handful to more than 150 students, cramming themselves into the biggest lecture theatre the institute could hire.
Being paid per capita the extra money was very useful for an impecunious young man starting a family but, more importantly, through these lectures the name Matthew Goodwin became well known and highly respected by a whole generation of Glasgow CAs..
In 1956 Matthew was head-hunted back into the profession from his mundane job in shipping, and quickly earned a junior partnership with Davidson, Downie & McGown. Contemporaries speak with awe of his immense powers of concentration, and ability to grasp and analyse complex situations, talents he deployed with great success as a professional accountant. At the same time, he displayed a huge zest for life, an ebullient sense of humour – albeit somewhat quirky at times – and had started to build a wide circle of friends, both personal and business (not that Matthew made any real distinction) which grew throughout his life, and with whom he was constantly in touch.
The story of his early involvement in earthmoving plant hire – the formation of Hewden in 1962 with client friends, the recruitment of Frank Jamieson to manage the business, and the ensuing years of successful growth – has been told and retold many times/
However, by 1968 takeover predators were already hovering, and Matthew had the insight to realise that major decisions were going to be needed to secure the best long-term interests of the shareholders and employees. At the same time, Ronnie Stuart's Crane Hire business, established in Cambuslang in 1961, was getting into a similar position. The two companies were already on friendly terms, co-operating rather than competing, and Matthew suggested a meeting. He laid the two balance sheets side-by-side on the table and instantly recognised the immense synergy which would result from putting them together.
There and then he proposed in complete detail a scenario for a merger, to be closely followed by a public flotation. Matthew's visionary plan was promptly agreed upon, and immediately put into action. By October 1968 Hewden-Stuart Plc had come into being, and Matthew had resigned his CA practice to join the new company as finance director.
Over the ensuing decades, this genius for imaginative corporate architecture was deployed time and time again as takeover followed takeover, and Hewden-Stuart grew to be, by a considerable margin, the UK market leader in its field.
As the company grew, Matthew (who took over as chairman from Frank Jamieson in 1978) never lost sight of his principles of frugality, prudence, and of the crucial need to build and foster the company's most precious asset – people. This is well illustrated by noting that when Matthew retired in 1995, with the group employee count around 4000, virtually every member of the management team from the executive main board downwards had come into the group originally via an acquisition, in some cases 20 or more years previously.
The company's shareholders also enjoyed unparalleled prosperity: £775 invested in 1000 shares at flotation would by 1995, and taking out all dividends, have grown (through scrip issues) to 20,648 shares worth £43,773, a multiple of 56. Shareholders were never asked for additional funds, and the dividend was increased in every year but one. No other London-quoted shares in any sector came even remotely close to this record.
Following his retirement, Matthew entered into the final phase of his life with his customary gusto. For the first time he was able to fully enjoy his love of travel, and visited with Lady Margaret many far-flung parts of the world, much of this on safari adventures, or on small cruise ships.
He retained a few select business interests, neither personally lucrative nor prestigious, but where he thought he could do most good. His work with charities continued unabated, particularly East Park Children's Home. He followed his other leisure pursuits – a game of bridge or a day's shooting – at every opportunity: he excelled at both.
But it was in his country estate that Matthew perhaps found his greatest fulfilment outside of business. "Country estate" is actually nuch too grandiose a title: there you will find no palatial mansion, no manicured lawns sweeping down to formal avenues of trees.
What you will find is a tiny cottage overlooking a magnificently wild, tree-lined lochan, nestling against a backdrop of the majestic hills of the upper Clyde Valley. This stunning vista has not arisen by chance: it has been painstakingly created and nurtured by Sir Matthew Goodwin over the last 40 years, much of it by his own hand.
There is little doubt that some of his happiest times were spent there in the company of Lady Margaret, his family, and his many friends.
Perhaps he would be pleased if this were to be considered his finest monument.
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